What equipment should I take on my walking holiday ?

Mountain hiking, whether it is practiced in the summer or winter, is a physical activity and a sport in its own right. It is important that the practicant has suitable material and a level of physical fitness conducive with the type and length of hiking to be undertaken. Here are some simple and practical tips for your equipment and clothing.

equipment for hiking

Make sure you have good walking shoes or boots

To be comfortable in one's shoes, that is to say you need walking shoes or boots that are well worn in to avoid getting blisters. In the worst case scenario, if you are obliged to travel with new walking shoes or boots, you can stap your feet up to prevent blisters appearing, this method is effective and inexpensive.

A good pair of shoes must, above all, be comfortable, and not at all painful to walk in. You need to be at ease, make sure you have tested them out well before leaving on your walking trip. Whatever the difficulty of the planned hike, the sole must be of a good quality, that is to say well sewn and non-slippery on varied and wet terrain (vibram or a similar type). To protect your ankles a boot with high sides is by far the preferable style, to avoid trauma to the back and joints, it is a good idea to have a shock absorbing sole interposed between the foot and the sole itself.

For intensive use, the quality of materials and seams is paramount. Of course it is also good to renew your shoes or boots every few years. Good old faithfuls may seem like they are going to be comfy but if you haven’t used them for a while they could well give up on you on the second day!

And the sticks ?

Walking sticks are actually very useful during steep climbs or descents, when you have a heavy bag, or a few problems with your joints. But apart from these cases, they do not help you to walk better, and are not totally indispensable.

Take a backpack of at least 30 litres

Avoid taking a "city" backpack, so small that you can not put anything in it,except for your packet of tissues. A 30 litre rucksuck is ideal for day hikes.

Even when you have your main luggage transported from your start point to your finish point it is essential to have a backpack. Why ? ... because hiking requires a minimum of autonomy: on a day hike backpackfor example, it is essential to bring a warm top, rain wear, a picnic and a water bottle. Many others things could be added to this list, a camera, cutlery, sunscreen, etc ...

Your choice of rucksack will directly effect your comfort, and therefore your pleasure, during your hike.

Take a bag which is the right size or even a little bigger ( too big is not a problem, on the contrary) :

  • Day hike : 30 litres minimum
  • Itinerant hike with luggage transport: 40 litres minimum
  • Itinerant hiking without luggage transport: 50 litres minimum

Take a strong bag ( these exist even in small sizes) with padded shoulder straps, a supple back plate, a belt, made from durable fabric (and you'll keep your bag all your life).

What to wear hiking ?

These are the articles that must be included for a mountain hike :

  • Undergarments of a thickness to suit the destiation
  • Light and loose trousers
  • A fleece or a warm sweater
  • A windproof garment
  • A waterproof garment (that may be the same as above)
  • A hat or headgear
  • Fine gloves and a hat will be useful at the beginning or at the end of the season.

Depending on which trip you are doing we would advise you to bring a warm jacket in addition.

The invention of synthetic textiles with remarkable qualities allows you today to be fully equipped for a reduced weight. Only underwear deserves to be taken in sufficient quantity to be changed regularly.

Regarding rainwear: rain capes or "ponchos" are very effective on the waterproof side, and they completely protect your rucksack from the rain. But as soon as you have to be careful where you tread on certain passages or when there is a lot of wind, it becomes impossible to see where you putting your feet.

In contrast, a classic rain jacket is perfect. For the backpack you can purchase a bag cover (not expensive) and if you really want to keep your items dry you can line the rucksack with a black rubbish bag ( 100% efficiency guaranteed).

Items to have in the bottom of your bag

You should think about taking :

  • Sun glasses
  • Sunscreen
  • A small first aid kit (see below)
  • A gourd of 1 L minimum.  A water bottle of 50 cl is totally insufficient. It is necessary to carry 1.5 litres per day in a real gourd. If you do not want to buy one just use a large Coke bottle.
  • Toilet paper and a lighter
  • A folding knife
  • A compass

In the case of a hike that uses gîtes or refuges also think about taking :

  • A sheet
  • A flashlight (headtorch if possible) with battery and spare bulb
  • A small towel

A list of equipment adapted to each trip is included in the your practical information sheet. In general people often set off with too much equipment. Remember that with hiking experience you will soon become acustomed to which items are relevant and which are not, compared to the weight they add to your load.

Your Travel Bag

It must be big (80 L) and solid, if possible in the shape of a holdall, especially if it going to be hung on pack animals (suitcases forbidden in this case) ... All your equipment must fit into this one bag. It is imperative to limit the weight of  the items you bring  (12 Kg is the maximum for a week): It is not a holiday if you are carrying all but the kitchen sink, on the contrary, this precious time should be occupied by discovery, encounters and contemplation.

Be careful, do not bring fragile things that could be damaged during luggage transfers.

First Aid Kit

For all our hikes and trips, which can take you far from medical centres, it is important to bring a personal first aid kit, depending on the destination, which should include at least :Hiking

  • Elastoplast
  • Second skin
  • An analgesic
  • Possibly a mosquito repellent
  • Anti diarrea tablets
  • Eye drop
  • Your personal medications if you follow a treatment

Evaluate your physical condition

Choose carefully the level of difficulty of your trip, if you are not used to walking at all, it is best to prepare a little in advance. The other advantage of this preparation is it also allows you to soften new shoes if necessary.

Have a great hike !

Article by Philippe Passemard translated and adapted by Sally Simmonds